Big Inning Paces Tigers to Sweep of A’s

By Matthew Harrington

For the second time in the three-game series at Detroit, a big inning doomed the Oakland Athletics hopes of exacting revenge on the team that bounced them from both the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Wednesday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers pounced on A’s pitching for a six-run sixth inning to seal up a 9-3 win and a series sweep in a matinee game at Comerica Park. Detroit (47-34)used a four-run bottom of the ninth Monday to walk off winners then shut the A’s out 3-0 Tuesday night.

A’s starter Jesse Chavez (6-5, 3.23 ERA) turned in his second-consecutive forgettable performance, taking the loss after surrendering four runs to the potent Detroit offense. In his last start on Friday against the Marlins, Chavez went only five innings in a six-hit, four-run no decision. His opponent Justin Verlander (7-7, 4.71), entrenched in a forgettable season, pitched well enough to be tabbed the winning pitcher after striking out four in his six inning, two-run performance to nail down the three-game sweep.

The A’s (51-33) did take some positives from Wednesday’s loss. Derek went 2-for-4 in his return from back stiffness that saw him sidelined since June 27. Yoenis Cespedes found himself penciled in as designated hitter after missing Tuesday’s game with tightness in his hamstring.

Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss accounted for the trio of A’s runs. Both hit solo home runs to right field off 2011 AL Cy Young winner Verlander in the first inning. Later, with the game well out of Oakland’s reach, Crisp scored on Moss’s seventh inning single off reliever Al Alburquerque. The Oakland first baseman’s performance Wednesday pushed him past an inactive Josh Donaldson (recipient of an off day from A’s Manager Bob Melvin) for the team lead in homers (19) and runs batted in (62).

Though the A’s struck early to stake Jesse Chavez to a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound, the Tigers struck often against the right-hander. Torii Hunter hit an RBI single off Chavez in the bottom of the first, then tied the game up on his run scoring base hit in the bottom of the third. Austin Jackson put Detroit ahead 3-2 in the home half of the fourth, plating Andrew Romine on a two-out single

The real damage came in six-run, three-pitcher sixth inning that saw the Motor City kitties score six runs. Chavez was lifted by Melvin in favor of Jim Johnson after walking the first two batters he faced. After retiring the first batter, Romine, on a sacrifice bunt, Johnson failed to record another out. Monday night’s hero Rajai Davis knocked a two-run single, Ian Kinsler singled in a run then 2013 American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera doubled in a pair to knock the 2012 All-Star from the game for Ryan Cook. In total, the beleaguered Johnson was responsible for four runs on four hits in his 1/3 of an inning.

Cook got the first batter he faced, J.D. Martinez, to ground out for the second out, but yielded a single to Torii Hunter that scored the inherited runner Cabrera. He then finished Nick Castellanos off with a pop-out, but by then the damage was done with Detroit sitting out front 9-2.

After facing the AL Central leaders Monday to Wednesday, the A’s head home to welcome the AL East’s top dogs. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and the Toronto Blue Jays flutter into town Thursday to open a four-game weekend series at O.Co Coliseum. Melvin has tabbed Sonny Gray to open the series in hopes of snapping the current three-game losing skid.

The Cespedes Runs-and-Guns Show Snaps Angels Streak at Five

By Matthew Harrington

The Oakland Athletics emphatically avoided a sweep at the hands of their Southern California rivals by thumping the Los Angeles Angels 7-1 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes nabbed a pair of runs batted in along with an outfield assist Wednesday night and catcher Stephen Vogt continued his torrid stretch since a call-up from Triple A Sacramento earlier this month.

Vogt launched a two-run home run into the bleachers in right field with one out to chase Halos ace Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.51 ERA) with the A’s leading 4-1. Oakland (40-26) also scored three runs in the ninth inning to firmly secure the victory for starter Tommy Milone while tagging Weaver with the loss. Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp also picked up RBIs in the contest.

Milone (4-3, 3.47) went 6 2/3 against the Halos, yielding the lone run on an RBI double off the bat of Josh Hamilton with the A’s up 1-0. Other than that he proved perfect in the stopper’s role, striking out four Angels while only walking two. Ryan Cook pitched a scoreless third of an inning and Luke Gregerson and Jim Johnson fired a shutout frame each to close out the win and snap a five-game winning streak for LA.

Third-string catcher Vogt, a Visalia, Calif. native, had the pleasure of hitting his first homer of the season in front of a crowd of friends and family. The real highlight of the night, however, came in the sixth inning after Albert Pujols ripped what appeared to be a surefire double into the corner in left field. Cespedes bobbled the ball when fielding it to allow Pujols to attempt to advance to third base. Cespedes, however, threw a bullet reminiscent of his webgem throw to home plate Tuesday night to gun down the Angels first baseman for his second assist in the three-game set.

Also adding to his defensive highlight reel was Crisp, who robbed Josh Hamilton of a second-inning homer after scaling the wall in the left-center. After a premature fireworks display exploded out of the rock pile in center, Crisp gave a discerning finger wag.

The A’s managed to wrap the series up with a 3.5 game lead over Anaheim (36-29) in the American League West standings after narrowly seeing it creep down below two games. Oakland takes an off-day Thursday before returning to O.Co Coliseum to face David Phelps and the Yankees. Sonny Gray gets the ball for the green and gold in game one.

A’s Flounder Against Richards, Angels as Trout Makes Splash

By Matthew Harrington

Starter Garrett Richards and the Los Angeles Angels stifled the Oakland Athletics offense Monday night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, besting the A’s 4-1 while limiting the visitors to four hits. Yoenis Cespedes and Stephen Vogt combined for all the Oakland offense, collecting two hits apiece. The A’s (39-25) scored one run for just the sixth time this season a day after exploding for 11 runs at Camden Yards.

Jesse Chavez (5-4, 3.04 ERA) pitched gave six strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits against the Halos, but the A’s offense failed to figure out Richards in support. The 26-year-old righty (6-2, 3.09) stymied the green and gold to only four hits over his seven innings.

The A’s took the lead in the top of the second after Yoenis Cespedes scored on a softly-hit Stephen Vogt single to left with two outs. Vogt proved steady at the plate and behind the dish in place of starting catcher Derek Norris. Norris sat out Monday night after taking a Manny Machado backswing to the back of the head yesterday afternoon in Baltimore.

Angels superstar Mike Trout collected his 44th and 4t5th RBIs on a sac fly in the third and a controversial fifth-inning ground-rule double respectively. With Hank Conger on second, Trout aboutfaced a 2-2 Chavez delivery to deep right field that looked labeled for the bleachers. Originally called a home run on the field, an umpire review revealed a fan reached below the railing to catch the ball for fan interference. Crew chief Bob Davidson overturned the play, placing Trout back on second base to the chagrin of Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia. Scioscia argued the play, resulting in an ejection from Davidson with the Angels leading 3-1. Hank Conger and Raul Ibanez also plated runs for the Halos.

After Richards, Joe Smith and Closer Ernesto Frieri locked down the A’s bats, pitching a scoreless inning a piece. Smith struck out two while Frieri k’d the side to pick up his 11th save of the season. Ryan Cook and Fernando Abad pitched a third of an inning a piece and Jim Johnson wrapped up the A’s pitching performance, allowing an unearned run in his 1 1/3 innings of work.

With the win, the Angels (35-28) move 3.5 games back of the A’s for the lead in the American League West. They’ll look to put together a fifth-consecutive victory Tuesday night, sending Hector Santiago to the mound in his return. Santiago seeks his first win of the season in his return to the rotation after Los Angeles placed Tyler Skaggs on the disabled list Monday afternoon with a right hamstring strain.

The A’s counter with Drew Pomeranz fresh off a bounce-back outing in which he narrowly outdueled Yankees sensation Masahiro Tanaka in a 2-1 loss in the Bronx. Pomeranz pitched seven innings, his longest start of the season, just one appearance after allowing five runs to the same Angels in a fortunate 9-5 home field triumph May 30th.

Despite Rough Ninth, A’s Preserve A Chavez Gem

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics made it five straight wins Monday night at O.Co Coliseum, but they didn’t make it easy on themselves against the Chicago White Sox. Despite a dominant performance from starter Jesse Chavez, the green and gold needed four different pitchers to get through a three-run ninth inning to hang on for a 5-4 win. Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson connected on two-run hits each and Sean Doolittle collected his second save in three opportunities to anoint Chavez the winning pitcher.

Jesse Chavez (3-1, 2.44 ERA) turned in a masterpiece, pitching 8-plus strong innings highlighted by seven strikeouts and only two walks. The lone mistakes were solo home runs issued to Dayan Viciedo & Jose Abreu, Chavez’s fourth and fifth home runs allowed on the year. All five long balls on the campaign have come with the bases empty for the righthander, a runner-up for the American League Pitcher of the Month in April.

“He’s been doing it all year for us,” said manager Bob Melvin. “I tried to get him all the way through it. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Seeing eight strong innings again, he’s consistent in that regard.”

The journeyman reliever-turned-starter has found new life in Oakland after stops in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Kansas and Toronto. Monday night proved a reason why, with the Southern California native pitching an effective game, using 93 pitches to retire 24 batters. 68 of Chavez’s deliveries were strikes.

“It’s amazing,” said fellow pitcher Sean Doolittle. “It’s amazing the way he can pitch to both sides of the plate with both a cutter and a sinker and obviously that big curveball he had tonight. He really pitches. The way he adds and subtracts, moves the ball around. It’s really fun to watch. That’s the guy that over the last few years has really reinvented himself.”

Dayan Viciedo took a 2-1 delivery from Chavez to the opposite field over the wall in right center, his third long ball of the season, to give Chicago (19-21) a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The A’s (24-15) responded in their next turn at the plate, with right fielder Josh Reddick skying a fly ball to straight-away center field for an RBI triple. The ball carried over center fielder Leury Garcia’s head and a foot below the top of the wall, giving Nick Punto plenty of time to score from first base and tie the game.

Third basemen Josh Donaldson enter play scuffling through the month of May, hitting .194 with no home runs and a lonely pair of RBIs over 36 at-bats. He turned around his May misfortunes in the bottom of the fifth by about-facing an 87 mph 2-1 delivery from Danks. Donaldson pulled a line drive just inside the left field foul pole for a two-run home run, giving him what appeared to be his league-leading 10th go ahead RBI at the time. Reddick walked to open the inning but Danks struck out the next two Athletics to bring Donaldson to the dish with two down for the homer. Danks (3-3, 4.88) retired Cespedes on strikes to end the inning and close the book on his outing after three runs over six innings with five outs coming on strike threes.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie added what at the time appeared to be a pair of insurance runs on his 500th career hit, a double in the gap in left off reliever Daniel Webb in the seventh. Leadoff man Craig Gentry scored from first on the hit, nipping on the heels of Reddick who came around on the play to create a 5-1 Oakland edge. Reddick singled with one out to start the rally then advanced to second on Gentry’s four-pitch walk.

Lowrie advanced to third on a wild pitch with Yoenis Cespedes at the plate, but the Oakland clean-up hitter grounded into an inning double play after second basemen Gordon Beckham snag the grounder on the shortstop side of second. Beckham flipped the ball to Alexei Ramirez who pirouetted over the bag before relaying to first to gun down Cespedes by a step and avoid the big blow and set up a tense finish.

No sooner did Chavez get A’s fans on their feet by taking the mound to try to finish off the game did Jose Abreu put fans back in their seats stunned. Entering the ninth inning, Chavez managed to void the presence of dangerous designated hitter, holding him to a pair of strikeouts and a fielder’s choice in three plate appearances. Abreu finally managed to display his raw power, taking a well-pitched 0-2 offering to deep right field for his MLB best 14th homer to chase Chavez trailing 5-2.

Melvin tabbed Fernando Abad to face Adam Dunn, but the lefty specialist failed to finish the White Sox first basemen off, getting him to two strikes before issuing a walk. Chicago manager Robin Ventura replaced Dunn with the speedy Moises Sierra who moved to third position on a double by Viciedo off Jim Johnson with no outs. Alexie Ramirez, tied for the American League lead in batting average Monday morning at .333, added to his total by picking up a run-scoring single off Johnson to trim the A’s lead to two.

“Once Chavez gave up the first hit, we knew it was going to be Abad for the next guy,” said Melvin. “After that it was going to be Johnson against the righty. If we needed the backstop we had (Sean Doolittle).”

Melvin elected to utilize the backstopper Doolittle to try to neutralize pinch hitter Paul Konerko with the tying run on first base and no outs. Instead, Konerko popped the first pitch he saw to center field for a sacrifice fly, plating Viciedo from third to make it a slim 5-4 lead.

“It’s situations like that where you look at the bigger picture,” said Doolittle. “It really breaks down to, it sounds cliché to say, but one pitch at a time. There were so many things going on, Runners on first and third, a guy like Paul Konerko at the plate. I was focused on making a quality pitch right from the very start. Getting that first out was really big.”

Ramirez stole his seventh base of the season to move into scoring position but pinch hitter Tyler Flowers struck out swinging then Doolittle overpowered Leury Garcia, forcing him to chase a fastball at the eyes to convert his second save of the season.

“I really did want to get the save,” said Doolittle. “I wasn’t really thinking about it. When we were high-fiving and going through the line after the game I was really happy with preserving the game.”

While the ninth inning proved exciting for one reason, Josh Reddick’s plate appearance in the fifth was a memorable one for a different reason. Reddick finished the day 2-3 with a walk, two runs and a run batted in, but most of the talk postgame was on his switch in walk-up music in his second at-bat. The professional wrestling enthusiast ditched the entrance music of recently deceased WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior for George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”. It certainly was a far departure from the guitar-heavy anthems players usually employ in their approach to the plate. It caught some of his teammates off guard.

“It’s just an awesome song,” said Doolittle with a straight face after the game. “It puts everyone in a good mood. I hope he keeps it up. “

Doolittle won’t be switching his battle hymn from Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” if he’s called upon tomorrow night against the White Sox to close out Drew Pomeranz’s first start as a full-time member of the rotation against Scott Carroll.

“Sometimes last year I thought about changing it,” said Doolittle. “But every time I hear it, it riles me up. I’m sticking with it for a while.”

 

Surprise Starter Plays Stopper for A’s in Game Two of Double Header

By Matthew Harrington

Very few teams can feel confident after losing three of four games in a series, but the Oakland Athletics gained some piece of mind after dodging a four-game sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners (17-16) Wednesday evening at O.Co Coliseum. Yoenis Cespedes hit his sixth homer of the season, Drew Pomeranz fired five scoreless innings in his spot start and newly reinstalled closer Jim Johnson cruised to his second save of the season to close out a 2-0 A’s victory in game two of double header against the M’s.

The quality start by Pomeranz (2-1, 1.45 ERA), a starter by trade but long reliever out of Oakland’s necessity this season, could normally have been considered the surprise of the day. Instead, it was the fact that Oakland manager Bob Melvin penciled number 61 in for the start that most caught fans and writers alike off guard. The A’s had called up Arnold Leon from Sacramento to fill the 26th roster spot allowance for double the headers, leading many to conclude that top pitching prospect would make his Major League debut Wednesday night.

Instead Pomeranz, acquired from Colorado in the offseason in the Brett Anderson trade, got the nod and picked up his first win as a starter for the green and gold. The southpaw cruised through his five innings, allowing only one hit and no walks while striking out five. His skid-stopping appearance showed the Oakland coaching staff that he’s ready as an understudy if starters Dan Straily (1-2, 4.93) and Tommy Milone (0-3, 5.86) continue to falter. With the A’s offense scoring three runs or less in six of seven May games, it’s imperative that pitching picks up the offensive slack.

The A’s (20-15) received all the offense needed after shortstop Jed Lowrie singled Craig Gentry home off Seattle spot-starter Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 6.00) in the third inning. Cespedes doubled the lead in the fourth after connecting on a 2-0 changeup from Ramirez to rip a liner over the wall in left field for his 20th run batted in on the season. While Cespedes now has homered on back-to-back days, third baseman Josh Donaldson saw his run of 29-straight games reaching base come to an end. Donaldson struck out three times and failed to reach base in four at-bats Wednesday.

Reliever Dan Otero strung together three shutout innings out of the pen after going a third of an inning in game one to save a staff that pitched four innings in the extra innings afternoon loss. Jim Johnson, taking the mound to a smattering of boos, silenced the critics momentarily by pitching a perfect ninth for his first save since April 6th. The A’s bullpen opened the second game down a man after Ryan Cook left game one in the tenth with an arm injury. The initial belief with the Oakland staff is that Cook’s injury is not that serious. Coco Crisp also exited game one after suffering a neck strain after crashing into the wall on an outstanding catch in the top of the fourth. Melvin expects his starting center fielder to be out for a few days, but will avoid time on the disabled list.

The A’s take Thursday off before welcoming their first interleague opponent to Oakland this season when the Washington Nationals come to town for a three-game set. Doug Fister is expected to make his 2014 debut with the Nats, facing Milone to open the series.

A’s top Red Sox 3-2 in 10-innings

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Sonny Gray versus the Boston Red Sox Photo credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland A’s defeated the Boston Red Sox 3-2 in 10-innings on Sunday to avoid being swept in the three-game series. The win also gave the A’s a 6-4 record for their very tough 10-game road trip. The victory keeps Oakland in first-place in the American League West.

The A’s scored the winning run in the top of the 10th-inning. With two out, Jed Lowrie hit a double (10) to center field. The Red Sox then intentionally walked Josh Donaldson. Alberto Callaspo drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Following a pitching change, Yoenis Cespedes stepped into the batter’s box. With a 0-2 count, Cespedes hit a slow roller to the third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Cespedes used his speed to safely reach first on a “bang-bang” play that allowed Lowrie to score. The run made it a 3-2 game and the A’s set the Sox down in order in the bottom of the 10th-inning to earn the win.

Sonny Gray started the game for Oakland and posted a no-decision. Gray worked 6.0 innings giving up 2-runs (both earned) on six-hits. Gray struck out three Red Sox hitters and walked two. He threw 102 pitches (60 strikes) while facing 24 batters.

Fernando Abad, Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle combined for 2.1-innings of relief for the A’s. With one-out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jim Johnson entered the game for Oakland. Johnson induced Jonny Gomes to ground into an inning ending double-play. Johnson faced just three hitters in the bottom of the 10th-inning to earn his third win of the season.

The A’s were led by Cespedes who went two for five in the game hitting a double (9) and the game-winning infield single. Brandon Moss went two for four and recorded a RBI. Josh Donaldson was just one for two at the plate but drew three walks and scored two runs.

John Lackey started the game for the Red Sox. Lackey pitched six-innings giving up two runs (both earned) on five hits. He struck out four A’s while walking three. Lackey threw 107 pitches (70 strikes) and faced 25 hitters in a no-decision.

The loss was hung on Boston reliever Chris Capuano (1-1). Capuano entered the game in the top of the 10th-inning and was responsible for Lowrie who scored the winning run.

The Red Sox were led on offense by A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski went two for four and hit his third home run of the season in the seventh-inning to tie the game at 2-2. Mike Carp also went two for four and scored a run for the Sox.

The A’s open a 10-game home-stand on Monday night with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariner series will be a four-game series that includes a traditional double-header on Wednesday. The double-header is necessary to make up the game was postponed on April 5th due to wet grounds. Oakland will probably have to call up a pitcher from Triple-A Sacramento to start one of the games on Wednesday.

The A’s will face the Washington Nationals for three-games next weekend and close out the home-stand with three-games versus the Chicago White Sox.

Rangers Sweep A’s Out Of First Place, Steal AL’s Best Record on Perez’s Complete-Game Shutout

By Matthew Harrington

For the first time in the 2014 season, the Oakland Athletics failed to pick up a single win in a series, dropping the Wednesday matinee finale 3-0 to suffer a sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers at O.Co Coliseum. Southpaw Martin Perez (4-0, 1.42 ERA) out-dueled A’s ace Sonny Gray,  taming the potent Oakland offense in a complete game, three-hit shutout. The win improbably propels the Rangers (14-8), battered with injuries to key personnel at nearly every spot on the diamond, over the A’s to the best record in the American League and first place in the division.

The A’s (13-8) only had one batter advance past first base all afternoon. Josh Donaldson doubled on a line drive to Michael Choice in left field with one down in the bottom of the seventh but the A’s failed to convert on the opportunity with a man in scoring position. Perez followed up Oakland’s other two base-hits, singles by Jed Lowrie and catcher Derek Norris, by inducing the next batter to bounce into a double-play each time. Lowrie, Donaldson and Norris were the only A’s base runners all afternoon, as Donaldson and Norris also drew the only two walks for the green and gold.

A couple of players with ties to the A’s, including former prospect Michael Choice and one-time utility infielder Donnie Murphy, collected run-scoring base hits to lead the visitors over the A’s for Oakland’s first loss by more than two runs this season.

Texas touched Gray (3-1, 2.25 ERA) up for a run in the first inning after the A’s starter gave up a walk to ex-Athletics farmhand Michael Choice. Gray bounced back to strike out Elvis Andrus, finishing off the shortstop looking on a masterful 80 mph curveball. Gray didn’t fare as well against Alex Rios who ripped an 0-1 fastball to left field for an RBI triple and a 1-0. The Rangers scored in the first inning in all three games of the series.

With Rios 90 feet from home and only one out, the Rangers appeared on the verge of a big inning. The clean-up hitter Prince Fielder appeared to expand the visiting team advantage after grounding a Gray offering to shortstop Jed Lowrie. Lowrie made the heads up play to try to cut an advancing Rios down at home plate, but home plate umpire Larry Vanover signaled Rios safe on the tag play. After A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play, the call on the field was overturned and the second run of the game became the second out instead.

The Rangers tagged Gray with another run after Leonys Martin singled to open the fifth then came around on Choice’s one-out single to center fielder Craig Gentry. Choice, Oakland’s no. 3 prospect in 2013 according to Baseball America, came over in the December trade that brought Gentry and Josh Lindblom to Alameda County. The A’s also shipped infielder Chris Bostick, the only player in the deal without Major League experience this year, to the Lone Star state.

One inning later Donnie Murphy wrapped up the scoring, launching a 3-1 fastball over the wall in left for a 3-0 Rangers lead. Gray fed Murphy a steady diet of fastballs in the at-bat, throwing five-straight heaters to the Rangers second sacker.

Gray pitched another scoreless inning but his offense couldn’t pick him up in the end. He headed to the showers down 3-0 on five hits and three earned runs. Gray struck out eight and walked four. Drew Pomeranz and Jim Johnson finished up the loss with a scoreless inning a piece.

Oakland hits the road for the next 10 games, heading to both American League outposts in Texas before a trip to Boston to face the defending World Series Champion Red Sox. The A’s open the road trip with a quartet against the Houston Astros, a team the A’s swept before seeing roles reversed against the Rangers. Scott Kazmir will take the mound for the second consecutive game against the ‘Stros. The veteran hurler pitched eight innings and surrendered three runs, two earned, but picked up the no decision on April 19th. Just like in that Saturday Showdown, he’ll be opposed by winless lefty Brett Oberholtzer. Oberholtzer gave up a lone run in five and two-third innings of work against the A’s.

A’s On Wrong Side in Extra Innings for First Time in 2014

By Matthew Harrington

For the first time in 2014, the Oakland Athletics ended up on the wrong side of an extra innings affair. The A’s suffered a walk-off loss 5-4 against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium Wednesday night in their fourth game requiring more than nine innings this season. Despite a 4-1 lead on a three-run home run from right fielder Brandon Moss and a two earned run performance over six-plus innings from starter Tommy Milone, the A’s bullpen failed to hang on to the lead. The Angels comeback, capped by Chris Iannetta’s game-winning blast off Drew Pomeranz in the bottom of the 12th inning, rallied the Halos (7-8)to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Athletics.

Oakland (10-5) appeared to have the game wrapped up after taking a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning on Moss’ second long ball of the season. The left-hander’s no-doubter to right  off Angels starter Tyler Skaggs plated Alberto Callaspo and Derek Norris with two outs in the inning. For Moss, who hit out of the eighth spot against the lefty Skaggs instead of his usual spot in the heart of the order, the dinger marked RBI’s number 13, 14 and 15 of the season, tops on the Athletics and the best mark in the American League. Moss matches fellow AL-er Chris Colabello of the Twins for third place in the major leagues.

Earlier in the top of the fourth inning, Callaspo doubled home Josh Donaldson for a one-out, game-tying double. Callaspo finished the night 1-for-4 after entering play flirting with a .400 batting average, good for the second best mark in the American League behind Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez.

In the previous half inning, the Angels opened the scoring after Erick Aybar lead off the inning with a single to center then scored on Mike Trout’s double with one out.

Milone opened the seventh inning by hitting Iannetta with a pitch that bounced in the dirt before skimming the LA backstop’s toe. After A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play, replay evidence proved inconclusive with crew chief Chris Segal rewarding Iannetta first base. The next batter, Collin Cowgill, singled on the first delivery from Millone, prompting Melvin to lift the left-hander in favor of reliever Dan Otero. Milone finished the night with only one strikeout and two free passes in six-plus innings of work.

Otero coaxed Aybar to ground into a fielder’s choice with second baseman Eric Sogard electing to force Cowgill out at second. J.B. Shuck reached base on an error by Callaspo, making just his second career appearance at first base, allowing Iannetta to cross the plate for a 4-2 A’s lead. Otero downed Trout on a full-count swing-and-miss but Albert Pujols wrapped a single up the middle to cut the A’s advantage to one run at 4-3 after Aybar came around to score. Pujols’ base knock was the only Angels base hit in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday evening.

After the A’s went down in order in the top half of the eighth, Otero, Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook combined to pitch a scoreless bottom half. Angels reliever Fernando Salas pitched his first of two scoreless innings to keep the home team down by one entering the ninth.

Luke Gregerson, Melvin’s top candidate in the closer-by-committee approach adopted by the A’s amidst deposed closer Jim Johnson’s struggles, entered the ninth seeking his third save in four opportunities. Instead, the righty blew his second save of the season, allowing back-to-back singles to Trout and Pujols. Gregerson then yielded a run-scoring force out on a failed game-ending double play chance after Howie Kendrick beat out Eric Sogard’s pivot to first to knot the game at four runs apiece.

Angels relief arms Michael Kohn and Yoslan Herrera held Oakland scoreless in an inning each to set up Joe Smith as the winning pitcher in the 12th. Smith (1-0, 5.14 Era) struck out Gentry to open the inning, then plunked shortstop Jed Lowrie with a wild pitch to put the go-ahead run on first. Donaldson, the hero in Tuesday night’s 11 inning A’s win, advanced Lowrie into scoring position but clean-up hitter Yoenis Cespedes struck out to end the inning and the scoring threat. The left fielder went 0-for-6 on the night to join Nick Punto and Sogard as the only members of the A’s starting line-up to be held hitless.

With the A’s bullpen pitching 7 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s barn burner, Melvin used Gregerson to pitch the tenth as well before handing the ball over to lefty Drew Pomeranz in the 11th. Pomeranz (1-1, 2.16 ERA), a starter-turned-reliever, pitched 2 and 2/3 innings Tuesday night before taking the hill in Wednesday’s game. Pomeranz allowed a Pujols single in an otherwise uneventful 11th inning then stayed in the game looking to hold the Halos off the board in the 12th.

Pomeranz started the 12th on strong footing, inducing a David Freese ground out and a Raul Ibanez pop out to retire the first two men to the plate on only eight pitches in the inning. Iannetta ended Pomeranz’s run on the first pitch he saw, rocketing a 91 mph fastball at the belt to center field just right of the 396-foot marker. Center fielder Craig Gentry leapt at the wall to try to pull the game-winning shot back in from the brink, but the ball grazed off the glove’s tip and into the grass at the base of the rock pile in beyond the fence.

For the Angels, Wednesday’s win helped to skew the numbers in their favor at their home turf. In the last 22 meetings at Angel Stadium, the A’s have been victorious a lop-sided 15 times. Oakland wrapped up a nine-game road trip, going 7-2 after sweeping Minnesota and taking two-of-three from Seattle and Los Angeles.

Oakland gets an off-day Thursday to travel home before opening a weekend series at the O.Co Coliseum against the Houston Astros who, after a hot start, once again find themselves in the American League’s basement in the standings. They’ll counter A’s Ace Sonny Gray with Zach Cosart in Friday’s series-opener.

Jaso’s Pinch-Hit Heroics Continue A’s Dominance in Anaheim

By Matthew Harrington

Jesse Chavez once again produced a quality start, his third of the season, Monday night in Anaheim, but yet again the converted reliever-turned-starter headed off to the showers without a chance at being named the winning pitcher. Just like his previous two starts, Chavez’ offense rallied in its last at-bat to give the Athletics (9-4) a win. The A’s, owners of the best record in the American League, triumphed in their starter’s previous two efforts in extra innings.

Backed by a pinch-hit, two-run home run by John Jaso in the top of the ninth inning, Oakland stole a 3-2 come-from-behind victory to open up a three-game series against the Angels (6-7)at Angel Stadium. Yoenis Cespedes also homered, deposed closer Jim Johnson (1-2, 9.95 ERA) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for his first win in green and gold and Luke Gregerson’s one-two-three ninth-inning save closed the door.

Chavez struggled in the bottom of the first, surrendering a two-strike single to leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun. The lefty caught phenom Mike Trout watching a nasty curveball for strike three, but Calhoun had already advanced to second when miscommunication between catcher Derek Norris and Chavez resulting in a passed ball earlier in the at-bat. Albert Pujols laced a single through the left side to plate Calhoun for a 1-0 lead.

Chavez cruised through the rest of his appearance, pitching seven innings, surrendering four hits and only one earned run on nine strikeouts. The lone earned run came off the bat of Pujols who crushed a homer to center field in the third inning, his 496th long ball of his career. Pujols now moves into lone possession of 26th place on the all-time long fly list.

Angels starter Hector Santiago countered Chavez, pitching seven innings of one-run ball with five hits and three punch-outs. Cespedes’ third homer, a solo shot to right center to make it 2-1 Angels in the fourth inning proved the lone blemish to Santiago’s ERA. The A’s outfielder now has home runs in consecutive games after going yard off Charlie Furbush in the A’s 3-0 win in Seattle Sunday.

The Halos Joe Smith and Oakland’s Johnson pitched scoreless eighths for their respective clubs, opening the door for Jaso’s fireworks in the ninth. Josh Donaldson, owner of a now eight game hitting streak, welcomed Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to the top of the ninth with a single. Cespedes then hit a deep fly out to center for the first out on a 2-2 count. Cespedes had asked for time from home plate Tim Welke, but was denied his request on the pitch. A’s manager Bob Melvin then called on Jaso to pinch hit for Norris after the backstop went 0-for-3 against Santiago.

Last season, Oakland finished dead last in batting average for pinch hitters with 20 hits in 139 substitute at-bats. Jaso entered Monday hitting .200 as a pinch hitter with a lone home run. He turned on a 1-2 offering from Frieri and deposited deep in the right field bleachers to put the A’s ahead 3-2. With Frieri (0-1, 6.75 ERA) lifted after his first blown save of the season, Jose Alvarez finished off the final two-thirds of the ninth.

Melvin tabbed Gregerson to be the closer-by-committee candidate Monday evening, and the right-hander reward his manager with a perfect inning. Gregerson produced ground outs by Ibanez and Howie Kendrick, the latter of which came on a bang-bang play challenged by Angels Manager Mike Scoscia but upheld after replay proved inconclusive to overturn the out call on the field. Gregerson coaxed a fly out from former World Series MVP (then with the St. Louis Cardinals)David Freese to notch his second save of the campaign and pick up the A’s 14th win in their last 20 games at Angel Stadium.

Oakland and Los Angeles faceoff in game two of the three-game set Tuesday night, with Dan Straily (1-1, 2.77 ERA) tabbed by Melvin to take the slab. He’ll be countered by Garret Richards (2-0, 0.75 ERA) who enters play Tuesday with only one earned run allowed over 12 innings.

Norris’ 11th-Inning Homer Salvages Oakland’s Afternoon As Johnson’s Woes Continue

By Matthew Harrington

Athletics closer Jim Johnson blew his second save of the season, but a Derek Norris three-run homer in the eleventh inning salvaged a 7-4 A’s win in Minnesota Wednesday afternoon. Oakland took a 4-0 led over the Twins in the first inning from Target Field, but a home team rally capped by a two-run ninth forced extra innings for A’s for the second time this season.

Athletics starter Jesse Chavez had a second-straight solid start spoiled, picking up a no-decision after seven innings and only one run allowed. Chavez also was the victim of circumstance in the A’s previous extra-inning game, a 12-inning 3-2 walk-off over the Mariners last Thursday.

Phil Hughes failed to retire the first six batters he faced Wednesday, walking leadoff man Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie before giving up four-straight base hits including a two-RBI single by Brandon Moss and run-producing hits by Josh Donaldson and Alberto Callaspo for a 4-0 lead with no outs. Hughes righted the ship, yielding no runs for the next four innings then four relievers combined to leave the A’s scoreless over the next five innings before Norris’ blast.

Designated hitter Jason Kubel cut the lead to three, launching a 2-0 Chavez delivery to deep right for a solo home run. It’d be the lone run the Twins produced off Chavez but second baseman Brian Dozier pulled the Twins within two on a solo blast of his own off A’s reliever Sean Doolittle to cut the lead in half.

The ninth inning continued to be a rocky ride with the two-time MLB saves leader Johnson on the mound. The leadoff hitter Kubel reached base on a single to center then ex-Athletic Kurt Suzuki drew a walk with two strikes to put runners on first and second. Johnson coaxed a bunting pop-up off the bat of Chris Hermann but Aaron Hicks took ball four with on another two-strike count to load the bases.

In a series of strange events, the Twins scored runs on the next two plays, but not without an umpire review for each. Eduardo Escobar flared a ball to left that Yoenis Cespedes scooped up and fired to third, looking for the force-out. The umpires ruled Suzuki safe at third after protest from Melvin, who then lifted his closer on the verge of blowing a second lead in three save opportunities in favor of Dan Otero.

Otero suffered the same fate as Johnson when guarding the one-run led. Brian Dozier lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, but Josh Reddick unleashed a laser to home plate to try to cut down Suzuki at home. After review, the call on the field was upheld, Suzuki was ruled safe and the Twins had forced a tie. Otero would walk Joe Mauer before ending the ninth with a ground out off the bat of Trevor Plouffe.

Neither team found the scoreboard in the tenth, with Glen Perkins and Otero pitching perfect innings to set up Norris’s blast. Norris, a pinch-hitter in the ninth who remained in at catcher for John Jaso, rocketed a delivery from Jared Burton (0-1, 9.00 ERA) to deep center to knock in Daric Barton and Callaspo for the decisive blow. It’s the right-handed backstop’s second dinger, both coming off right-handed pitchers. Otero (1-0, 1.69 ERA) walked a tight rope in the 12th, loading the bases on two singles and a walk before retiring Plouffe for the victory.

The A’s wrap up the series against Minnesota with another early afternoon game Thursday. Oakland’s Dan Straily and Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey each take the hill looking for their first win of 2014.